Isn’t playing in the NBA all about making millions of dollars, dating supermodels and actresses and making the highlight reel every night? Isn’t it about being paid to play basketball and sleep with groupies? Isn’t it about becoming a global icon and retiring when you’re 35 years young? How many players with max contracts are losing sleep because they aren’t better than MJ, Magic or Bird? Maybe one, Kobe, and he’s sleeping a lot easier these days.
There’s been plenty of talk about how Lebron James has tarnished his legacy by joing D-Wade and Bosh in Miami. Past NBA greats like Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have weighed in on the topic and countless others have thrown their two bits into the mix, with the consensus being that James has removed himself from the “greatest” conversation and smeared his legacy. Read more. But has nobody stopped to ask whether James cares? He certainly can’t hear criticism from two ringless cats like Barkley or Miller, who, and let’s be honest, both would have done things differently if it meant they could have won at least one championship.
Aren’t NBA legacies overrated? To be real, in order for an NBA player to have a true basketball legacy, shouldn’t college basketball be a requirement? The basketball Hall of Fame counts college as part of player’s career, so the legacy talk already starts to disintegrate when you talk about guys like Garnett and Bryant who bypassed college and have had incredible NBA careers. The thought that a player can reach the pinnacle of the league and then somehow transcend the game seems a little foolhardy to me. I understand that everyone loves to make comparisons to past NBA greats, I’m guilty of it as much as anyone, but you get the sense that legacies are highly overrated among the new generation of NBA players. And who can blame them? If a player takes the stance that he wants to be greatest ever, then he’s immediately compared to Michael Jordan and lofty standards and expectations are placed on him. As soon as he fails to mimic Jordan’s success he’s chastised for it, and if he pushes too hard, he’s criticized for not making his teammates better. We saw this with Kobe Bryant, and while Kobe has managed to prove many of his critics wrong by winning championships, the consensus remains that he will not ever be as great as Jordan and there are those that won’t put him ahead of Bird or Magic. Read more.
Players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Paul Peirce are the last of a dying breed of an NBA athlete. These players truly value and play for not only themselves and their teams but for their legacies. But with all that Garnett and Peirce have accomplished, you still can’t stamp their legacies among the true Celtic greats like McHale, Russell and Bird, that’s not even debatable. And with all Kobe has accomplished, arguably, he’s where he would have ended up anyway, as one of the Lakers greats, somewhere behind Magic and Jerry West, and that may remain true in many circles even if he gets a sixth ring.
The point I’m making here is the hypocrisy of denouncing James and his legacy because he has chosen to play with a team where he’s almost guaranteed to win. Players are criticized when winning comes second, and now it seems they lose their legacies when winning comes first. If Lebron goes on to win championships in Miami and continues to put up the MVP type numbers he’s put up for his career, at the end, he’ll still go down in history as one of the all time greats. Of course, he’ll never be better than Michael Jordan, but the real question is, will anybody?